WASHINGTON – Consumers are financing both sides in the war on terror because of the actions of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said Sunday.
The former Arkansas governor made the comments following what he suggested was a muted response by the Bush administration to a Saudi court's sentence of six months in jail and 200 lashes for a woman who was gang raped.
"The United States has been far too involved in sort of looking the other way, not only at the atrocities of human rights and violation of women," Huckabee said on CNN's "Late Edition."
"Every time we put our credit card in the gas pump, we're paying so that the Saudis get rich -- filthy, obscenely rich, and that money then ends up going to funding madrassas," schools "that train the terrorists," said Huckabee. "America has allowed itself to become enslaved to Saudi oil. It's absurd. It's embarrassing."
Huckabee said "I would make the United States energy independent within 10 years and tell the Saudis they can keep their oil just like they can keep their sand, that we won't need either one of them."
Responding to the gang rape case in Saudi Arabia, the State Department expressed astonishment about the sentence of the Saudi court against the rape victim.
The woman was convicted of being in the car of a man who was not a relative. The seven men convicted of raping her were given prison sentences of two years to nine years.
Under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, women are not allowed in public in the company of men other than relatives.
The woman has said the 2006 attack occurred as she tried to retrieve her picture from a male friend. While in the car with the friend, two men climbed into the vehicle and drove to a secluded area. She said she was raped by seven men, three of whom also attacked her friend.
The woman initially had been sentenced to 90 lashes after she was convicted of violating rigid laws on the segregation of the sexes. The Saudi court said the woman's punishment was increased because of what the court said was her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that "when you look at the crime and the fact that now the victim is punished, I think that causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment. But it is within the power of the Saudi government to take a look at the verdict and change it."
Last Tuesday, the same day as McCormack's comments, President Bush telephoned Saudi King Abdullah, trying to get Saudi Arabia to co-sponsor this week's U.S.-organized conference aimed at working toward a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. On Friday, Abdullah agreed to send its foreign minister to the conference.